Hello world! It’s hard to describe a summer in the Bay Area from my slightly-biased eyes, and it’s hard to keep a senior countdown by myself (you will see why soon). So, to give a fresh perspective on the Bay Area experience, here’s Melissa Wang! I will have a series of guest blog posts over the sumemr to mix up the content a little bit, so stay tuned!
Hi there! My name is Melissa Wang, and I’m a senior here at Caltech. I am a member of Fleming House, though I live in an apartment off campus. And like Lekha, I am an Applied & Computational Mathematics major. Over the past couple of summers, I have— for a lack of a better word— “dabbled” in a variety of fields as I attempt to prepare myself for the real world. The summer after freshman year, I went home to St. Louis and did a chemistry SURF at Wash. U. in a mass spectrometry lab. I loved spending time at home with my family, but I realized that lab research— the very thing that got me interested in Caltech— was not my calling. So the following summer, I decided to do something radically different and accepted an offer to intern at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington, D.C. The work there was really interesting, but I soon realized that working for the government and in the ungodly D.C. summer heat was not for me. Having racked up summer experiences in academia and government, I had one more sector yet to delve into— industry. In what most college students call the “critical” summer, I headed off to San Francisco for an internship at The Brattle Group, an economic consulting firm.
Disclaimer time: I did not decide to work at Brattle just to complete the academia-government-industry trifecta. I thought that the natural progression I took looking back was neat. In reality, going into this summer, I was looking for an internship in management consulting, economic consulting, and quant-related roles. I was interested in a potential career in one of those fields and definitely wanted to take this summer to explore the option. I plan on either pursuing a MBA or PhD, but not for one second did I consider pursuing an additional degree immediately after college. Caltech is not an easy school. It was no walk in the park on day one and has become progressively harder. I truly appreciate the problem solving skills Caltech has imparted on me, but I am and have been ready to take a couple of years after college to do something other than go to school. I really want to have a full-time job, which is a far different experience than an internship sandwiched in between schooling. I am not saying that I will prefer working to schooling by any means, but I do want that experience. Watching my classmates apply to medical and graduate schools, I do not envy them one bit. Though there are many benefits to lumping all your schooling together, I personally do not want to toil my 20’s away in lab or shadowing doctors to finally emerge into the real world a decade later. Admittedly, the application process to get into med school and grad school is brutal. But once you are in, that is yet another couple of years of schooling. This to me translates to yet another “excuse” to put off facing the real world. By no means do I think I am doing ‘life’ right or that I think that my opinions are “correct.” Heck, I really have no idea what I am doing and whether it will lead me to where I want to go. But I embrace all of my opportunities openly and have learned and grown as a result.
With that being said, let me tell you (or better yet show you) what I have been doing this summer in my free time. During the school year, I keep a (roughly) weekly personal blog documenting my style and interests in fashion mainly through pictures. Therefore, I think the best way to fully capture my experience is through good-quality photos. So with the help of my Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR Camera and the occasional iPhone snap, let me share with you some of my experiences so far.
So there you have it! I have a couple of weeks left before I go home for a month. Then it’s back to Caltech and my senior year. It seems like not long ago that I was entering my senior year of high school. I have stayed really close with my high school girlfriends, and it is so crazy to think that almost four years have passed since those defining moments of our young lives. Even as we entered different colleges, made new friends, and encountered new adventures, we always found our way back to each other. One thing that helps me through the moments in life when I am scared or nervous is my support system. I am the first to admit that I am not a social butterfly— I hate small talk (even when necessary) and acting interested in people’s lives (a.k.a. faking it). And I realize that it might come off as cold and unfriendly to some. What I do treasure are the people that have stood the test of time— the ones that are still there for me after seeing me at my angriest, saddest, most selfish, giddiest and most triumphant moments. Those are my true friends. And I am so blessed to have the ones that I do. Thus, I try to adhere to the following rule (as should you): avoid negative energy and focus your energy on the people that make your days brighter. So, yes, I am ready to take on my final year of college and the unknown that lies ahead— not because I am a strong person, but because I have people to share my experiences with and people who support me no matter what. And they don’t just go away after one chapter of my life.
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under the mentorship of senior research technologist Dr. Xiaoqing Pi. Dr. Pi’s guidance and mentorship has been instrumental to the development and success of my internship at JPL, where I use machine-learning to enhance the accuracy and integrity of navigation and communication signals. In addition to helping me develop an understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric remote sensing and machine-learning, Dr. Pi has often offered his insights on how to improve my researching skills. Dr. Pi was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding his research and advice for future student interns. I believe many students can benefit from some of the lessons that he has taught me:
The transition period to remote learning was a very uncertain time, especially for research and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. Many hands-on projects had to pivot at the last minute to facilitate off-campus contributions. However, many Techers were able to take advantage of the research opportunities offered at Caltech and JPL to make the best out of remote learning and research. To paint a picture, I’ve interviewed a few talented Techers for some insight on what researching from home looks like for them.